Lombok - which Gili is right for you?


In Lombok's local language, Sasak, the word “Gili” simply means “small island”. And, besides the famous three off the north coast – the ones that most of us mean when we talk about “the Gilis” – there are over thirty more Gilis scattered around Lombok. Most, however, have neither permanent inhabitants nor anywhere to stay.

Today, a Gili (or even two) seem to sit alongside Ubud as an Indonesia must-do. But which Gili is right for you? Trawangan, Meno or Air in the north? Or one of the quieter “Secret” or “Southern” Gilis, on Sekotong Bay, down south?

It's simple to get between Gili Trawangan, Meno and Air – a public boat does the circuit several times a day, and boat charters are easy. To get from one Southern Gili to another, you'll need to charter a boat.

For Good Times: Gili Trawangan

By far the busiest of the Gilis, Gili Trawangan absolutely heaves during the July-August high season. It's calmed down some from its decadent peak of a few years back – only a fraction of the bars now advertise shrooms – but, rather like Koh Tao on Thailand, Gili T pulls in goodtime backpackers who want to dive all day and party all night, with the occasional day snoozing in the sun. Gili T is not cheap – especially not in high season, when prices can triple from low season – and there's better diving off Bali and Flores, but it IS a great place to meet other solo travellers. There's more to do on Gili T than the other islands, while accommodation spans the gamut from uber-luxe hotels and megavillas to hostels and homestays.



With Kids: Gili Meno

Gili Meno is the quietest of the three northern Gilis, with white sand beaches that can be quite blissfully deserted. Want to play at Swiss Family Robinson but still have a choice of where to eat dinner? Gili Meno is for you. Right across the strait from Gili Trawangan, the snorkelling is good, the wandering is great, and kids will have a wonderful time exploring the island in safety. Note that accommodation prices are very much higher than Bali, especially in high season, and, as with everywhere on the Gilis, be aware of currents when snorkelling.

With a Partner: Gili Air

The vibe of Gili Air is halfway between Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno. Waterfront fresh fish barbecues? Check. Cocktails and imported wine on a white sand beach? Check. Quiet strolls along the beach, or through the village? All possible. Accommodation isn't cheap, but it is negotiable, outside of high season.

For Village Life: Gili Gede Indah

Gili Gede Indah – literally “big, beautiful little island” – is the major island in the Southern, or Secret, Gilis: to get there, catch a boat from the tiny port at Tembowong. Four named villages and a cluster of hamlets scatter the island, making it a wonderful spot to enjoy the simple rhythms of village life. Beaches suffer from litter, but charter a boat for great island-hopping and snorkelling. There's budget to midrange accommodation on the island, but very little choice of where to eat.

For Desert Island Bliss: Gili Asahan or Gili Nanggu

Currently home to just one resort, Pearl Beach, and a few simple houses, Gili Asahan, south of Gili Gede Indah in the Southern Gilis, is the Gili to hit if you're looking to play castaway in style, although the $90 bungalows are pricey by Indonesian standards: the resort can arrange pickup (or charter a boat from Tembowong). On a budget? Head to Gili Nanggu, in the northern cluster of the Southern Gilis. It gets busy with daytrippers at weekends and on local holidays, but outside those times you might well have the island and its solitary resort to yourself: boats leave from the beach south of Sekotong.

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Published by Stuart Lodge